Dunedin hospital rebuild delayed further, another Labour commitment failure

Before the last election Labour criticised the then National Government for delays in building a new hospital, and committed to starting the rebuild of in their first term. But the Labour Government has kept pushing out a decision and the rebuild to further than National had indicated, and have just announced they won’t even make a final decision until next year.

Before the 2017 election Labour stated: Rebuilding Dunedin Hospital

All New Zealanders should be able to get the healthcare they need, when they need it. Dunedin Hospital serves 300,000 people in the city and the surrounding regions, but it is no longer fit for delivering modern healthcare to a population with increasing health needs.

For years, Dunedin Hospital has needed to be rebuilt.

The current Government has finally committed to making a decision on the rebuild but Cabinet won’t consider the details until sometime next year and it plans for the new hospital to be up to 10 years away.

Up to ten years away then was up to 2027.

With Labour’s approach, Dunedin will have a new hospital as soon as possible, and the taxpayer will get the best value for money. Avoiding further delay will minimise costs and mean patients get better care more quickly.

Labour will: commit to beginning construction of the new Dunedin Hospital within our first term

This project is expected to cost $1.4 billion, and will deliver the most modern hospital in New Zealand, ready to serve Dunedin and the Lower South Island for decades to come.

But the Labour Government hasn’t avoided further delays. While land has been purchased and buildings are being demolished, there is no sign of a start on the outpatients block let alone the new hospital.

This week: Government confirms new Dunedin Hospital design

The Government has agreed on a preferred design for the new Dunedin Hospital featuring two separate buildings, and has provided funding for the next stages of work.

Minister of Health Chris Hipkins says Cabinet has approved in principle the detailed business case for the new hospital, giving people in the Southern region certainty and confidence in the design and ongoing progress.

But there is no certainty, still.

“Cabinet agreed the detailed business case in principle as it’s important the project maintains momentum and demolition and design milestones are reached. We’ve released $127 million to progress design, demolition, piling, project management and early contractor engagement.

“It’s expected the total budget for the project will now exceed $1.4 billion. This will be confirmed once concept design is finished and costings can be finalised. The final details of the business case are expected go to Cabinet for approval by February 2021.

While it looks probably that Labour will be back in Government next year and hopefully the Cabinet will approve proceeding with the rebuild they promised a start in their first term, so have failed to deliver.

Outpatients (at almost 15,000 sqm) is due to be complete by early 2025, with Inpatients (at around 73,500 sqm) due to be finished in the first quarter of 2028.

‘Inpatients’ is code for ‘hospital’. The small outpatients block will be built before the actual hospital is started, possibly in 2025 but that’s far from certain.

And the planned completion date is after what the previous Government had projected. If National had stayed on in Government there’s no guarantee they would have delivered either, but Labour has been no better.

Implementation Business Cases for each building – Outpatients in mid-2021 and Inpatients by the end of 2021, will be considered by joint Ministers of Health and Finance, prior to confirming the main contractor for each building.

Having committed to commencing a rebuild “in our first term” (which ends next month) they now say they will only consider the Implementation Business Case for the hospital building “by the end of 2021”.

The Labour Government is throwing billions of dollars at infrastructure and ‘shovel ready’ projects all over the country, but Dunedin, and Otago and Southland, are a long way from getting a replacement regional hospital for what three years ago Labour described as “no longer fit for delivering modern healthcare“.

This re-emphasises the reality that election campaign pledges, promises and commitments (from any party) are often deliberate delusions aimed at gullible voters.

RNZ three years ago: Ardern raises stakes over Dunedin hospital

Ms Ardern was confident her party could build the hospital faster than the National Party’s seven to 10 year estimation.

“The hospital at present is dangerous and unsafe for staff and patients. Most of the existing buildings would not survive a severe earthquake.

“Things are so bad that at the moment operations have to be delayed because of the leaks when it rains. Dunedin Hospital is no longer fit for purpose,” she said.

Serious problems with the current buildings are ongoing.

Last month: Progress on ICU air conditioning

New air-conditioning machinery will be installed in a bid to get Dunedin Hospital’s multimillion-dollar new intensive care department fully functional.

Ventilation issues delayed the opening of stage one of the project for four months in 2018-19; the second stage was meant to open at the start of this year, but its 10 critical care beds remain unused.

The project has been bedevilled by the hospital building’s old air-conditioning machinery, which has proven inadequate to meet the demands of a modern critical care unit.

A new critical care unit can’t be used because of problems with the building.

The new ICU was commissioned by the SDHB to tide it over until the new Dunedin Hospital is built.

It replaces a dark, cramped ward that has poor facilities for patients, their families and staff with bright, spacious rooms and modern equipment, an upgrade staff have been eagerly awaiting.

They could be waiting another ten years.

Earlier this week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to the Otago Daily Times:

…Ms Ardern said Labour remained ‘‘absolutely’’ committed to the rebuild of Dunedin Hospital, and also wanted to continue investment on upgrading Otago and Southland school buildings.

‘‘I remember very early on visiting Dunedin Hospital and it was just so clear what was needed there,’’ she said.

But it’s still far from clear what Labour’s ‘absolute’ commitment to the rebuild of the Dunedin Hospital amounts to. Niceness doesn’t provide adequate modern hospitals, nor does it save lives.

Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  16th September 2020

    Hasn’t Christchurch had the same problems? I think I saw its DHB head blaming its financial problems on rebuild failures.

    • I was going to reply but decided to put it into another post:

      • Duker

         /  16th September 2020

        And who was the government when the building was completed 3 years ago but not ready due to delays ?

        • I’m not aware of any new building completed three years ago.

          That the last Government underfunded health is well covered history.

          This post is about commitments made by Ardern and Labour in an election campaign, and their failure to deliver. I’m not sure why you are trying to divert from that.

          • John J Harrison

             /  16th September 2020

            Well colour me surprised, Duker is vainly attempting to deflect from another hollow Labour election “ commitment.

          • Duker

             /  16th September 2020

            Christchurch Hospital rebuild…. surely you mentioned than in your story on that along with the ongoing funding and building completion problems over the last decade.
            “He said Chuah’s attitude and that of his officials towards board management was made clear at an induction in Wellington for new board members in late 2016.”
            Serious problems back in 2016 had been running many years

            “”But then a comment was made by the director-general, that the management of Canterbury is so bad that whenever an official from the ministry comes to Christchurch, they come back traumatised, refusing to return.
            “I had to leave the meeting early. But I was escorted out of the ministry by the director-general and all the way down [he said] ‘you’ve got to get rid of the management, you’ve got to get rid of David Meates, he’s left a trail of debt and destruction’.”
            That was 2016 when the DG was Chuah ( now Bloomfield as Chuah had his own big mistakes)

            Soloman was appointed Chairman by the previous government and ignored the Dept and Treasury advice – he called it nonsense
            “One of the things that it stated was the Canterbury [DHB] was totally inefficient. ”
            Lester levy who has been involved with many DHBs as a fixer upper says the same things about management at Christchurch, but Soloman didnt want to know,
            I believe a well known doctor and management expert Lester Levy rather than the Ngai Tahus former foundry worker.

          • Duker

             /  16th September 2020

            ” I’m not sure why you are trying to divert from that.”

            Wilkinson raised the Christchurch hospital delays, which this government inherited from that project which had the signoff back in 2012. These have been because of the Contractors poor performance –

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  16th September 2020

            Did the last Government underfund health? My recollection is that they reduced treatment waiting times which have now increased again. Throwing money without results is a Lefty speciality.

            • They did, but under Labour the waiting times have increased by an appalling amount, as the housing waiting lists have.

            • Duker

               /  16th September 2020

              For a few types of treatments only , the money came from under funding others.
              Even those extra funded appoitments had games played by DHBs , they would get as many new patients through the doors, take the money and then slow walk the follow up appointments.
              The specialists have covered this in the media , especially the complete debacle at Waikato DHB, its CEO and the ex national Mp who was the Chairman appointed by National

  2. John J Harrison

     /  16th September 2020

    Pete, the trouble is that Dunedin is a Labour town represented by not the brightest in the party.
    Worse, as a Labour town you are continually taken for granted – as too most Labour cities.
    Just yesterday the hapless Twyford promised that if he gets re – elected he will complete the AKL light rail project.
    Again !
    Only an ardent masochist would vote Labour based on their worthless promises and record to date.
    Unfortunately, the unthinking masochists may make up the majority.

  3. “Absolute” shambles. Another fail to deliver from Labour and zero accountability.

    • Blazer

       /  16th September 2020

      After 9 years of neglect…Labour received so many….hospital passes…..it is NO surprise.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  16th September 2020

        Labour tackles all problems with an open mouth.

        • Blazer

           /  16th September 2020

          National never tackles problems today that it can delay until….tomorrow…which never…comes.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  16th September 2020

            It will come. And then National will inherit all Labour’s problems got worse.

          • John J Harrison

             /  16th September 2020

            Blazer, you conveniently “ forget “ that the Labour heavyweight intellectual, David Clarke as Minister of Health ( and a good Dunedin boy ) scrapped ALL health targets on obtaining his warrant.
            Could not stand the idea of being held to account as all previous ministers from both National and Labour had in the past.
            A total flake, supported in full by Ardern.
            No targets – no accountability.

            • “a good Dunedin boy”

              Actually no, just a part timer. He grew up in Beachlands and went to school in Auckland. He went to University in Dunedin – he started studying medicine but switched to doing degrees in theology and philosophy.

              After being ordained in 1997 he was Assistant Minister at St Lukes Presbyterian Church in Auckland.

              He spent more time in Dunedin doing a PhD (on the work of German/New Zealand refugee and existentialist thinker Helmut Herbert Hermann Rex), hence Dr Clark.

              He them went to Wellington where he worked as a Treasury analyst (not sure what qualified him for that), and he obviously had political contacts, he was celebrant at Grant Robertson’s civil union in 2009.

              He returned to Dunedin where he was the warden of Selwyn College. While there he was selected by Labour to replace Pete Hodgson and was elected in 2011 – I stood against him in that campaign, where he looked like a loyal Labour repeater without little sign of what he knew or thought.

            • John J Harrison

               /  16th September 2020

              Pete, my sincere apologies for besmirching your fine city.
              So he is simply another JAFFA .
              That explains everything.

            • Blazer

               /  16th September 2020

              Ah Metro magazines renown ‘visitor from Hawkes Bay’….can imagine a Safari suit and trimmed goatee,……..take care old sock.

            • Duker

               /  16th September 2020

              Clarks PhD was done in Germany, he had earlier done a year in Germany as a high school exchange student.
              His mother was an GP in Otara which probably influenced him for medical school and his version says during the first year he lost interest in all the chemistry and biology and wasnt going to continue into medical school but as well he got average of A- but was just below the cutoff point so thats why he switched to Philosphy and Theology.
              in 2011 Clark won Dunedin North with 12,976 votes while PG standing for United Future got 176 just ahead of the ACt candidate

            • John J Harrison

               /  16th September 2020

              Duker, I had no idea.
              Good for Pete for standing for public office.
              In stark contrast to the Neanderthals who scoff and bellyache about those that did.
              Like you they hide behind non de plumes.
              Wonder why ?

            • Clark got most of those votes because he was the Labour candidate. That’s how politics works in New Zealand. Safe party seats are won by whoever the candidate is. Clark campaigned on nothing but rote repeating of Labour talking points. He got over 4,000 votes less than the previous Labour candidate and MP, Pete Hodgson.

              Metiria Turei was better known than Clark but got fewer votes. Same for Michael Woodhouse.

  4. Duker

     /  16th September 2020

    When did Labour say they would open a new hospital in Dunedin in 2021 ?

    “Last week National leader Bill English visited the city, and pledged to rebuild the facility for $1.4 billlion within 7-10 years.”
    “Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says her party would build a new hospital without using PPP (public private partnership) – and says they would relocate it to the city centre.
    The construction – also with a $1.4 billion price tag – would begin within a first term of Government.


    Building work has started
    Foundations are building work. The full construction was always thought to take 7-10 years
    Its utter nonsense to suggest an outpatient block is not a ‘hospital’. Most patients are treated as outpatients these days, what do you think the Emergency department is doing ?

    For construction reasons – Dunedin is too small for the scale of work on the two core parts of the Hospital to be built simultaneously.
    Far enough most general readers dont understand the complexity and time lines for modern construction like a hospital


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